Friday, Jun 09, 2023

Hotel Popular With Chinese Visitors Attacked In Afghanistan's Kabul, Blast And Gunfire Heard: Reports

Hotel Popular With Chinese Visitors Attacked In Afghanistan's Kabul, Blast And Gunfire Heard: Reports

The attack on a hotel frequented by Chinese businesspersons in Afghanistan's Kabul comes within weeks of an attack on Pakistani embassy in Kabul.

Taliban personnel in a hotel in Afghanistan's Kabul, responding to an attack
Taliban personnel in a hotel in Afghanistan's Kabul, responding to an attack AP Photo

A loud explosion and gunfire was reported on Monday near a popular hotel in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, according to reports.

The explosion and gunfire were reported from Kabul's Shahr-e-naw area, which is the capital's one of the main commercian areas, reported AFP.

The AFP added that the Kabul hotel near which the explosion and gunfire were reported is popular with Chinese business travellers. Another report said the hotel under attack also housed Chinese nationals.

This is the latest blast in Taliban-run Afghanistan which has had a series of attacks in recent months. This runs afoul of Taliban's claims of ensuring and increasing security within Afghanistan.

Footage of the blast site has surfaced on social media and shows fire and smoke rising into the air.

The attack comes a day after China asked the Taliban regime to increase security of the Chinese mission in Kabul, Afghanistan.

"Hotel housing Chinese nationals comes under attack in Kabul. Chinese ambassador in Afghan capital had met Taliban leadership, asking him to pay attention to security of Chinese embassy. Attack on Chinese come, after attack on Russian embassy, Pakistan top diplomat," reported journalist Siddhant Sibbal.

Earlier this month, there was an attack on Pakistani mission in Kabul in which the head of mission was targeted. The Pakistani envoy survived the assassination attempt.

While attacks on Chinese personnel and interests in neighbouring Pakistan are not unheard, attacks on Chinese are new in Afghanistan. 

AFP reported its correspondents seeing teams of Taliban special forces rushing to the scene. A Taliban source based in Pakistan told AFP that an unknown number of attackers had entered the hotel and an operation has been launched and firing continues.

Taliban-China connections

China has long had concerns of the Islamic radicals in the regions and fears that the insurgency in the region might spill over into China's Xinjiang region. The Xinjiang region is home to China's Uyghur Muslim minority. 

The separatist movement in Xinjiang is helmed by Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is a designated terrorist organisations with known ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) says that ETIM "has used violence to further its aim of setting up an independent so-called 'East Turkistan' within China" and it's active in South Asia, Central Asia, and Xinjiang.

It further noted, "ETIM has received significant support from Al-Qaida and the Taliban, and previously from Usama bin Laden and has sent its members to Al-Qaida and Taliban training camps. Upon completion of training, ETIM members have traveled to Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya of the Russian Federation, and China to conduct terrorist and other violent acts. ETIM is also considering using Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan as transit routes for the illegal transfer of fighters to China."

Despite such concerns, China is one of the few countries to maintain diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country last year.

The Taliban is looking at China to invest in Afghanistan and take up mining operations which brings Taliban much-needed revenue.

"Despite owning the rights to major projects in Afghanistan, notably the Mes Aynak copper mine, China has not pushed any of these projects forward...The Taliban are reliant on China to turn one of the world's largest copper deposits into a working mine that would help the cash-strapped and sanctions-hit nation recover," reported AFP.

Continuous attcks in Afghanistan

The Monday's attack on a hotel associated with Chinese in Kabul is the latest attack in Afghanistan which is a further blow to Taliban's claims of ensuring security in the country.

Dozens of people have been killed in several attacks in Afghanistan in recent months. Attacks have also taken place inside Kabul's diplomatic enclave.

On December 2, Pakistani envoy in Kabul survived an assassination attempt when gunmen targeted him inside the Pakistan embassy in Kabul.

In September, an explosion at Russian embassy in Kabul killed two people and caused another 15-20 casualties.

"Two members of the diplomatic mission were killed and there are also victims among Afghan citizens," said the Russian Foreign Ministry in a tweet at the time.

Though there have been several other attacks, the attacks at diplomatic missions highlight the Taliban failure to ensure security as embassies are based within diplomatic enclaves in national capital which are supposed to be among the most secure places in the country.

In September, a coaching centre was the site of a bombing in which at least 35 were killed, most of them young students taking preparatory exams.

In September, another attack in a mosque in Herat killed 18 people.

In July, two civilians were killed in a blast in Kabul International Cricket Stadium during a league match. It was said to be a hand grenade attack. Thirteen people were also wounded in the attack.

In August, a bomb blast in a mosque in Kabul killed 21 people and injured 33, according to BBC. The mosque's emir was also killed in the blast.

Taliban-ISIS tussle in Afghanistan

A number of attacks in recent months in Afghanistan have been blamed on the regional affiliate of terrorist group ISIS called ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISKP).

The ISKP is opposed to the Taliban on an ideological basis. The Taliban seeks an Islamic emirite in Afghanistan and does not have wider ambitions, whereas the ISKP and parent ISIS are committed to a worldwide Islamic state that they call Caliphate.

This disgreement has resulted in a bloody tussle and turf war in Afghanistan between the Taliban and ISIS.

Even though Al Qaeda also has global ambitions, the Taliban is not lodged in a tussle with it.

Think tank Wilson Center expplains: "ISIS-K [or ISKP] subscribes to the Jihadi-Salafism ideology — and plays up the ‘purity’ of its anti-idolatry credentials. The Taliban, on the other hand, subscribe to an alternative Sunni Islamic sectarian school, the Hanafi madhhab, which ISIS-K regards as deficient. The two groups also differ over the role of nationalism. ISIS-K fiercely rejects it, which runs counter to the Afghan Taliban’s aims of ruling over Afghanistan."